*Special Note with Regard to Unpaid Internships:
If the position you have been offered is unpaid, do you need to apply for Curricular Practical Training or Optional Practical Training?
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is rigorously investigating “unpaid internship” programs to determine if the work performed is properly “volunteer” work under the law. If the unpaid internship should be a paid internship under DOL rule, then you must be employment authorized using CPT or OPT. Without proper authorization you may be violating your status because you are engaging in unauthorized employment.
It is therefore important for you to understand the rules governing volunteer work. The DOL Wage and Hour Division has established a six-factor test for determining whether work is legitimately volunteer training, or whether it is employment (for which pay and work authorization is required.) If all six of the following criteria apply the trainees are not employees, and may be classified as volunteers for which no employment authorization is required:
Use this six factor test to determine if the position you are taking requires work authorization, and remember the safe rule -- “if the student trainee will provide the employer with beneficial service, even if unpaid, then proper work authorization is required."
*adapted from an article by Mark B. Roads, “International Students and Unpaid Internships,” National Association of Colleges & Employers (NACE) Journal, April 2016
A student who is on approved OPT and volunteering (without pay) must still submit an OPT reporting form along with the appropriate volunteer letter: